19July2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A damp day

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Mavis Whyte – obituary

Mavis Whyte was a forces sweetheart known as the ‘Tiddley Winkie Girl’ who entertained troops in North Africa and Italy

Mavis Whyte

Mavis Whyte

5:38PM BST 18 Jul 2014


Mavis Whyte, the variety entertainer, who has died aged 92, won the hearts of wartime servicemen as the “Tiddley-Winkie Girl” with her rendition of the frothy and catchy novelty song Tiddley-Winkie Woo.

Morton Morrow’s simple tune and lyrics (which now frequently feature on compilations of the sort parents use to lull their babies to sleep) were almost impossible to forget — even after one hearing — and therefore became immensely popular: “Tiddley, Winkie, Winkie, Winkie, Tiddley Winkie Woo/ I love you./Tiddley, Winkie, Winkie, Winkie, Tiddley Winkie Woo/ I love you./I love you in the morning,/ And I love you in the night./I love you in the evening,/When the stars are shining bright./ So Tiddley, Winkie, Winkie, Winkie, Tiddley Winkie Woo/ I love you.”

Mavis Whyte, the Tiddley Winkie Girl

Mavis Whyte took her signature song on tour with Ensa (the Entertainments National Service Association) in 1944, as part of a comedy variety act in which she gave song and dance impressions of Shirley Temple, Jessie Matthews, Marlene Dietrich and Gracie Fields, and performed alongside American stars such as Mae West (“Look me over boys, but don’t try to reform me,” she recalled the sultry actress telling her audiences).

After travelling to North Africa in a troop ship, Mavis followed the Eighth Army to Sicily and up through Italy. “The troops were very glad,” she recalled . “I think the thing was that we were people from home. We had come out especially for them, and it was important… they would say ‘Hey Tiddley Winkie, here Tiddley Winkie! Where have you come from?’ and all that. Then, when we moved to entertain the Americans it was the same.

“People have wanted laughter,” she went on. “That’s why they sent shows abroad to help the troops to recover. You have got to have laughter to complement the tragedy in life.”

Mavis Whyte was born in Scotland on January 28 1922. Her mother was an entertainer, her father a captain in the Merchant Navy.

She first trod the boards in pantomime in Liverpool in the 1930s, where she met a young Ken Dodd, who was working part-time as a stage hand and with whom she became lifelong friends.

After the war she appeared in cabaret in the West End, where she met her husband, Bert Loman, a one-armed theatrical impresario and pantomime producer who, in the 1920s, had come to the rescue of George Formby at a time when the performer was thinking of becoming a car mechanic, and had put him into pantomime, from where he progressed into films.

Mavis Whyte and her husband moved in the 1950s to the Wirral where, from 1958 until 1972, she starred in Jackson Earle’s Melody Inn Revue, a popular variety show staged at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton. There she appeared alongside stars such as Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and Max Miller. In the winter months she toured as a leading lady in pantomime.

Mavis Whyte as Marie Louise

In the 1960s, with Jackson Earle’s wife, Peggy Naylor, she regularly brought the house down at the summer variety show with an act called “The Two Julies”, in which they played a couple of Liverpool “teenagers” in beehive hairdos and micro-skirts. “We came on stage on a scooter,“ she recalled, “and [I would] say ‘I used to be a nurse. I was a nurse in Birkenhead General and I was doing alright. There was this fella in bed and he said ‘Nurse’ he said ‘Give us a kiss’ and I said ‘No! I can’t.’ He says ‘Go on! Give us a kiss!’ and I says ‘No I can’t! I shouldn’t really be in the same bed as you!’”

Mavis Whyte would enjoy re-enacting their sketches in later life when she came out of retirement to raise thousands of pounds for research into blindness. Her own favourite was: “Actually this Vera, she wears all the latest fashions. I saw her walking down the street and she was wearing half a topless. Half a topless! This side was alright, but this side: Oh la la! I said ‘Eh, Vera what you walking down the street like that for?’ She looked down and said ‘Oh my God! I must have left the baby on the bus!’”

Mavis Whyte’s husband predeceased her, and after his death she launched a new character called “Marie Louise”, who introduced cabaret dancers in heavily accented English. There were no children of the marriage.

Mavis Whyte, born January 28 1922, died June 23 2014


Andrew Pulver, in his examination of why war films are so beloved of Hollywood (War!, G2, 18 July), misses the crucial factor. He quotes scriptwriter Cottrell Boyce: “We’re attracted to it because of its moral certainties.” That suggestion is naive and simplistic. Hollywood loves war films, especially ones about the second world war, because they portray a mighty and heroic US war machine that saved Europe and won the war. The decisive contribution made by the Soviet Union is written out of that history, as is the contribution of all other countries. War films help promote Pentagon policy and the idea that military action is the only way of defeating evil. In a recent New York Times article, economics professor Tyler Cowen argued that the blame for the present economic crisis is the fact that we haven’t had any big war nor a foreseeable one. “It is the persistence and expectation of peace,” he writes, that is the problem. During the 20th century and into this one, US economic growth has been fuelled by a massive armaments build up and a whole series of wars throughout the world. War is central to US economic survival and world dominance. That is the real reason Hollywood churns out its war movies.
Bruni de la Motte
Cnwch Coch, Ceredigion

Edward Snowden‘s call to professionals, including lawyers, to upgrade security following surveillance revelations (Edward Snowden urges professionals to encrypt client communications, 18 July) is a timely reminder of an issue the Law Society has been exploring for some years. We are already reviewing the ramifications of surveillance for lawyers. Legal privilege – the right to consult a legal adviser in confidence – is a prerequisite for justice. I will be writing to other professional bodies so we can discuss the impact spying is now having on our members’ confidential communication with clients or patients. I will also be writing to relevant academics, civil liberties groups, lawyers and other experts both nationally and internationally, to invite them to collaborate with us in addressing wider issues on surveillance and the rule of law.

It is difficult to overstate our concern about the possible effects of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers law that was rushed through parliament by the government this week. We need a public debate on striking the balance between security, freedom and privacy. We need to simplify and clarify a complex and confusing legal framework to ensure that it protects human rights. I will be leading a debate at the American Bar Association conference in Boston this August on this topic.
Andrew Caplen
President, Law Society

• UN high commissioner Navi Pillay should be applauded for saying that “those who disclose human rights violations should be protected: we need them”. However, if Snowden goes to trial in the US, the question of whether he legitimately disclosed human rights violations will not be considered, because US law does not recognise any sort of a public interest defence for the crimes for which Snowden is charged. The US is at odds here with democracies around the world, which increasingly recognise that whistleblowers who expose human rights violations should not be prosecuted, because the public interest outweighs possible harm to government interests. These points are codified in the Tshwane principles on national security and the right to information, which have achieved broad international endorsement. The US should not lag behind emerging international consensus on these crucial matters. US law needs to be changed.
Sandra Coliver
Senior legal officer, Open Society Justice Initiative, New York

• I can’t help thinking that a more honest and ethical foreign policy towards the Middle East would do more to enhance public security than all this ransacking of phone records and airport baggage.
Colin Baker

The overall loss of life in the Malaysia Airlines disaster (Report, 18 July) is the primary concern, but a separate issue is raised. Around 100 were scientists going to a conference in Australia. The number of conferences held worldwide is enormous, but is it not time to ask why such trips are necessary. The advent of large-screen TVs and rapid transmission of data and the spoken word mean it is no longer necessary to send thousands of people around the world at great expense often to the public purse (eg the universities) and at major environmental cost. People are already familiar with each other through Skype, telephone, email and the journals and, dare one say it, they are often an excuse to take the family on holiday. Now we have lost a very large number of people expert in the science of Aids. What cost will this be to those suffering from the disease?
Dr Simon Harris

• In the space of eight days, your film critic Peter Bradshaw has given five stars to one film lasting nearly three hours (Boyhood) and one with a running time of four hours (Norte, The End of History). A former leader of the Italian Communist party had the nickname Iron Bottom, from his ability to sit for endless hours in meetings of the comrades. Your critic should know that our bottoms are made of tenderer stuff.
Jeremy Bugler
Blakemere, Herefordshire

• It isn’t just in Brazil that the World Cup generates universal peace, love and harmony (Letters, 18 July). In 50 yards along our street there were two flags for England and one each for Algeria, Argentina, Cameroon, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria and Spain. Belief that football matters and loyalty to home-town team. Core British values on multicultural display.
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood

• Professor Maynard asks where the money will come from to pay for increased bariatric surgery (Letters, 15 July). It will come from the savings in diabetes treatment which takes up 10% of the NHS budget (and rising). Bariatric Surgery as a treatment for diabetics with a high BMI means n o more tablets, far fewer hospital visits, amputations and kidney transplants.
Dr David England

• So the new boss of Wonga is “reviewing how we go to market across the piste” (Report, 15 July)? Couldn’t have illustrated the gulf between lender and borrower much better, could he?
Hilary Fraser

Israel has once again unleashed the full force of its military against the captive Palestinian population, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip, in an inhumane and illegal act of military aggression. Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world. Over the period 2008-19, the US is set to provide military aid to Israel worth $30bn, while Israeli annual military exports to the world have reached billions of dollars.

In recent years, European countries have exported billions of euros’ worth of weapons to Israel, and the EU has furnished Israeli military companies with research grants worth hundreds of millions. Emerging economies such as India, Brazil and Chile are rapidly increasing their military trade and cooperation with Israel, despite their stated support for Palestinian rights. By importing and exporting arms to Israel and facilitating the development of Israeli military technology, governments are effectively sending a clear message of approval for Israel’s military aggression, including its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Israel’s military technology is marketed as “field-tested” and exported across the world. Military trade and joint military-related research relations with Israel embolden Israeli impunity in committing grave violations of international law and facilitate the entrenchment of Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights. We call on the UN and governments across the world to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid.
Adolfo Peres Esquivel Nobel Peace Laureate, Argentina, Ahdaf Soueif author, Egypt/UK, Aki Olavi Kaurismäki film director, Finland, Alice Walker writer, US, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Nobel Peace Laureate, South Africa, Betty Williams Nobel Peace Laureate, Ireland, Boots Riley rapper, poet, arts producer, US, Brian Eno musician, UK, Caryl Churchill playwright, UK, Chris Hedges journalist, Pullitzer Prize 2002, US, Cynthia McKinney politician, activist, US, David Palumbo-Liu academic, US, Etienne Balibar philosopher, France, Federico Mayor Zaragoza former Unesco  director general, Spain, Felim Egan painter, Ireland, Frei Betto liberation theologian, Brazil, Gillian Slovo writer, UK/South Africa, Githa Hariharan writer, India, Giulio Marcon MP (SEL), Italy, Hilary Rose academic, UK, Ilan Pappe historian, Israel, Ismail Coovadia former South African ambassador to Israel, James Kelman writer, Scotland, Janne Teller writer, Denmark, Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour), UK, Joanna Rajkowska artist, Poland, Jody Williams Nobel Peace Laureate, US, John Berger artist, UK, John Dugard former ICJ judge, South Africa, John McDonnell MP (Labour), UK, John Pilger journalist and filmmaker, Australia, Judith Butler philosopher, US, Juliane House academic, Germany, Karma Nabulsi Oxford University, UK/Palestine, Ken Loach filmmaker, UK, Kool AD (Victor Vazquez) musician, US, Liz Lochhead national poet for Scotland, UK, Luisa Morgantini former vice president of the European Parliament, Italy, Mairead Maguire Nobel Peace Laureate, Ireland, Michael Mansfield barrister, UK, Michael Ondaatje author, Canada/Sri Lanka, Mike Leigh writer and director, UK, Naomi Wallace playwright, screenwriter, poet, US, Noam Chomsky academic, author, US, Nurit Peled academic, Israel, Prabhat Patnaik economist, India, Przemyslaw Wielgosz chief editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Polish edition, Poland, Raja Shehadeh author and Lawyer, Palestine, Rashid Khalidi academic, author, Palestine/US, Richard Falk former UN special rapporteur on Occupied Palestinian Territories, US, Rigoberta Menchú Nobel Peace Laureate, Guatemala, Roger Waters musician, UK, Ronnie Kasrils former government minister, South Africa, Rose Fenton director, Free Word Centre, UK, Sabrina Mahfouz author, UK, Saleh Bakri actor, Palestine, Sir Geoffrey Bindman lawyer, UK, Slavoj Zizek author, Slovenia, Steven Rose academic, UK, Tom Leonard writer, Scotland, Tunde Adebimpe musician, US, Victoria Brittain journalist, UK, Willie van Peer academic, Germany, Zwelinzima Vavi secretary general of Cosatu, South Africa

• Seumas Milne (Gaza: This shameful injustice will only end if the cost of it rises, 16 July) says that it is “beyond the realm of fantasy” for Israel to claim that it is responding to rocket fire “out of the clear blue sky”, yet before the launch of Operation Protective Edge on 6 July, Hamas averaged three rockets a day from 14 to 29 June and 17 a day from 30 June to 6 July. Its attacks on Israel target civilians and residential areas.

Milne also claims that the blockade of Gaza is illegal, whereas the UN’s Palmer report concluded that it is legal. Hamas is internationally recognised as a terrorist organisation, whose objective is not a peaceful solution to the Middle East’s problems but the destruction of the state of Israel. Hamas has rejected a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and supported by the Arab League and the UN, and greeted the start of Israel’s five-hour ceasefire by firing rockets.

Milne praises Hamas’s “defiance and resistance” and says it “has shown it can hit back across Israel”. This is no less than the glorification of terror. His claim that there is a “power imbalance” is to imply that it is wrong for Israel to defend itself. The current crisis is a tragedy of Hamas’s making and its latest actions only deter the great majority of Israelis who want a secure and just peace with their Palestinian neighbours.
Terry Philpot
Limpsfield Chart, Surrey

• Having lived in Israel for the past five years, I have seen first-hand the impact that ongoing terrorism has had on the country. In 2005, the Palestinian people had a great opportunity to create a new life for themselves in Gaza, but under the direction of Hamas, they turned to terrorism. Hamas consistently uses the people of Gaza as human shields and locates rockets in populated areas. Where is your condemnation of Hamas?
Doron Youngerwood
Modi’in, West Bank

• Seumas Milne argues that the price of Israel’s occupation needs to be raised. One way of doing this is to challenge Israel’s claim that it is and is not an occupation.

This convenient ambiguity has enabled it to cherry-pick the Geneva convention and justify treating the occupied Palestinians differently from Israeli citizens while simultaneously annexing, expropriating and settling chunks of their territory. After 47 years, it is time to call the Israeli bluff. The Palestinian thinker Sam Bahour and I have proposed that a firm deadline be set for Israel to make up its mind definitively one way or the other. If it is an occupation, Israel’s – supposedly provisional – custodianship should be brought to a swift end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

The key is to remove the status quo as the default option. So, should Israel choose not to choose, other states may interpret this to mean in effect that it intends to hold on to the occupied territories indefinitely and hold Israel accountable to the equality benchmark. The clutch of international laws pertaining to apartheid rather than occupation would then come into force. The hope is that the Israeli people would rebel against the pariah status this would entail and vote in a new government ready to do a genuine two-state deal before it really is too late.
Tony Klug

• In your editorial on Gaza (17 July), after the mention of an Israeli airstrike on Saturday in which 22 were killed, we are told that “those on the ground did not deny that the Hamas-affiliated police chief of Gaza City was sheltering there”. By suggesting that it is relevant that this accusation wasn’t denied, the Guardian appears to be endorsing the Israeli use of extrajudicial executions of Palestinian public servants. It would be inconceivable to write this way if the situation were reversed.
Sam Playle

• When the Arab world media is seen with rare unanimous voice to be holding Hamas responsible for the current Gaza war, it is fascinating that the Guardian remains consistent in condemning Israel alone. Which one is reporting news and which one its own prejudices?
Peter Simpson
Pinner, Middlesex


Aid from the West being used to bankroll Isis in Syria” (18 July) – how surprising to read this in The Independent; the tone and misleading nature of the headline are irresponsible.

The headline suggests there is something to be exposed: that aid is being misappropriated. Yet this is clearly not the case, according to the rest of the article, which explains how aid is being effectively distributed.

That humanitarian aid is reaching people who are living under Isis is a success story, not a scandal. As a neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement operates according to the principle that humanitarian assistance should reach the people who need it most, no matter who they are, where they are or what government or regime they are living under. We believe that all civilians should have access to the assistance they need, regardless of whether they are in Isis-controlled areas.

Aid agencies operate in some of the most insecure and remote areas of the world. Staff and volunteers often take extraordinary risks to reach those worst affected by disaster and conflict, as demonstrated by the tragic loss of 44 Red Crescent volunteers in Syria.

Articles like this are at best unhelpful, and at worst impact the ability of humanitarian organisations to access those most in need.

Mike Adamson, Acting Chief Executive British Red Cross, London EC2


If the headline about the West “bankrolling Isis” was not misleading enough, the report linking aid to towns “which have witnessed beheadings, crucifixions…” seemed to suggest that aid should not be delivered to civilian populations trapped in areas under the control of proscribed organisations.

But the consequence of such an inhumane approach is mass starvation.

The article then quotes the Department for International Development stating that it does not fund Isis, but goes on to quote Bashar al-Assad on the price to be paid by Western states in supporting terrorism.

The less sensational points in the article, such as the statement that aid in these areas is largely distributed by Syrian relief committees which pre-existed Isis, or that aid workers can operate largely unhindered in Isis-controlled areas, is lost by conflating this with Isis’s own aid (and fuel) distribution, funded from its own Gulf donors and the spoils of war.

Ironically, this unhindered access contrasts with regular interference with aid distribution in regime-held areas of Syria which has made NGOs, in some cases, pawns in the Assad regime’s “submit or starve” policy.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, for example, was only sporadically allowed into the besieged suburb of Yarmouk, Damascus (where my in-laws have been trapped). NGOs such as Mercy Corps that dare to deliver aid to opposition-held areas get booted out of regime-held areas.

As a charity lawyer with a particular focus on this region, I advise international NGOs on operating in high-risk areas – it is a principle of international humanitarian law that civilians in conflicts on all sides have a right to material assistance, and even our breathtakingly wide counter-terrorism laws do not criminalise negotiating access to civilians in areas under the control of terrorist organisations.

We should be doing everything we can to support the civilian victims of the largest humanitarian catastrophe of this century, rather than chasing the latest headline.

I am proud of the British Government’s commitment to humanitarian relief and to organisations like Mercy Corps and the World Food Programme which deliver life-saving aid in the most difficult of circumstances and hope readers will join me in continuing to donate to this worthy cause.

Augustus Della-Porta, Cambridge


Privatisation of suffering

While I am religious, my concerns about the Assisted Dying Bill are not based on my religious beliefs, at least not directly. What really bothers me is the fact  that what we are seeing is the privatisation of suffering.

At the moment, the people who are in these desperate and tragic situations are of public concern, both in terms of the cost and the fact that we can see it.

The question of the cost of the treatment involved is one that no one is asking, nor should it be. But while in public hospitals, the suffering of the people in these situations is a very public suffering, and that is the problem.

I believe that the suffering will be moved from the public sphere, where we as a society would be forced to respond, to the private sphere, the houses and the minds of those who, while not in extremis, are forced now to ask the question: given that the opportunity for assisted dying exists, do I need to be here?

That is suffering, a different kind of suffering, a very private suffering but suffering nonetheless.

Matthew Thomas, London SE6


In 1992 my father was dying of liver, bowel and lung cancer. The morphine was kept high on a kitchen shelf, to be administered by the community nurse each day and, towards the end, there were days when he considered self-administering a lethal dose.

He made the decision to be hospitalised, first and foremost to rid himself of the option of suicide. I would have understood him taking that option, but he felt it was more important to let the staff in the hospice monitor the pain relief so that he could say goodbye to family and friends. Despite their care, the pain was terrible.

But he carried another kind of agony as well: he had some huge regrets. The nurse told me he wasn’t at peace, that something was troubling him deeply and he wouldn’t be able to die peacefully unless it was resolved. She asked: wasn’t there someone dad trusted whom he could speak frankly with?

Twenty-four hours before he died, his priest visited. Dad was able to let go of his burden and afterwards, despite the pain, you could see he wasn’t struggling any more. For me, it meant the door opened on a reconciliation which I’d waited all my adult life for.

A cousin wanted to visit dad on this last day and I was tempted to say no, to let dad conserve his energy. But for what? This cousin said later that being able to see dad that day changed the course of his life. In his reflections on his own life, dad was able to guide him away from making some of the same grave mistakes.

Despite my initial desire to support dad in ending his life, I have come to cherish that last 48 hours as pivotal. He was able at last to die in peace, and his legacy for many who visited him was a deep wisdom which comes from knowing there is little time left to say what matters most. For me, it meant an understanding that the very last hours of someone’s life are as precious as their first.

Robyn Appleton, Reading

In all the debate about assisted dying I do hope the view is taken into account of Indians like myself who believe assisted dying will not terminate your life and stop the suffering.

This is because we believe we are trapped in an endless cycle of death and rebirth which we call samsara, until we reach nirvana. It is the samsara that causes our suffering, and only through being part of a sangha, or community, can we learn how to reach nirvana. The sangha could be seen as providing assisted living.

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich


The sidelining of satan

It is understandable that the Church of England has stopped mentioning Satan at Christenings (“The devil is in the details”, 18 July): he has been overtaken by knighted bankers, phone-tappers, pay-day lenders and television stars of the 1980s.

Ian McKenzie, Lincoln


Prepare to emigrate to Scotland

Alex Salmond is said to feel (report, 17 July) that a Yes vote will protect the NHS in Scotland from the privatisation likely in England should there be a Tory majority next May. In combination with many of their other ideas for the future of this country, Cameron and Co are likely to encourage emigration, probably to Scotland.

Peter Erridge, East Grinstead


Something evil down under

I used to admire Australians: bravery in two world wars, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, wonderful cricketers… But now Australian big names stand for varieties of evil: the Murdoch empire, Rolf Harris, and even its Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (“Thumbs down under – Australia’s repeal of the carbon tax is a retrograde step”, 18 July). What could be more evil than a plan to wreck the planet?

Peter Brooker, West Wickham 


Democracy good …democracy bad

Strange how our love of democracy fades the nearer we get to the eastern Mediterranean.

Bob Simmonds, Stickney, Lincolnshire


Advocates and opponents of the Assisted Dying bill both uphold the sanctity of life

Sir, I always read Melanie Reid’s Saturday column. A cerebral haemorrhage seven years ago robbed me of the ability to do many things I enjoyed but I can walk with a stick, drive and even garden after a fashion. My difficulties are minor compared to Melanie Reid’s, and I remind myself of this when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself.

Her Opinion piece (July 18) on assisted dying is extremely well argued in a non-emotional way. I cannot understand how anyone not in her situation can presume to tell her (or anyone else, for that matter) that she should not be allowed to decide the timing of her departure from a life that might at some point become intolerable.

Barry White
Loughton, Essex

Sir, The Assisted Dying bill includes hospice care among the end-of-life choices to be offered to those with terminal illnesses. However, it is not always possible to secure a bed when it is wanted. Hospices get two thirds of their income from donations. This bill will give no real choice for the terminally ill unless it guarantees government-funded hospice places for everyone who wants one.

Dr John Newton
Sutton, London

Sir, Dr Retsas (letter, July 16) notes the difficulty in predicting how long a patient will live, but the bill is aimed at those who have exhausted all treatments and have intolerable symptoms from which they wish for relief by ending their lives, after trying all palliative care can offer. I too am an oncologist, and have seen such patients, and believe that we should try to help them.

Sir Christopher Paine
Wotton Underwood, Bucks

Sir, Your correspondents (July 18) should not be referring to assisted dying as euthanasia. It is muddying the waters, perhaps deliberately. The whole point of the debate is to give people the chance to make the decision for themselves. Of course, there should be carefully thought out safeguards, and even then there will misuses, but if not, we will continue to leave that choice of life or death in the hands of others.

Judith Wyss
Ely, Cambridgeshire

Sir, Suicide is legal in the UK, and the means are freely available. Mentally competent disabled people have an unquestionable right to be enabled to commit legal acts. Indeed, it is commensurate with their dignity as human beings to be enabled to do so.

If we are concerned about abuses of the legalisation of assisted suicide, we need to look at our attitudes towards disability and illness, and how people are growing up and being educated in such matters. I believe that, much like abortion, the legalisation and regulation of assisted suicide will make it less open to abuse.

Dr Daniel Emlyn-Jones

Sir, It is very hard to choose to die and there should be no pressure to do so simply because you are a burden. If you believe in the sanctity of life, then we should all hope for a peaceful and loving last goodbye.

Pauline Lecount
Bearwood, W Midlands

Sir, Matthew Parris (July 16) is right. To avail of assisted suicide so as to avoid being a burden to others is, far from being reprehensible, a natural and honourable reason for doing so.

Tony Phillips
Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

Care for the elderly used to be provided by councils – now it is a matter of profits for shareholders

Sir, Discussions about care of the elderly often ignore the profit motive. Privatisation of care homes lies at the root of poor standards and high costs. Making money for shareholders and executives has led to the asset stripping of our old people; care workers on minimum wages have little incentive to do the job properly.

Care used to be provided free by county councils, which trained staff to high standards and paid decent wages. Giving the elderly the best possible care is surely an obligation on society. Politicians and bureaucrats shirked that responsibility and sold council care homes, calling it the best value for taxpayers. It’s hardly value for old folk when they lose their homes and their life savings.

Let’s accept that the days of free care are over, but old people could still pay their way in council-run care homes. Without the profit motive, the costs would fall, standards would rise, and there would be no need for a new, taxpayer-funded watchdog with 700 inspectors on the payroll.

Philip Chadwick

Southsea, Hants

The long-awaited F-35 fighter aircraft shows no signs of arriving, even at the Farnborough airshow

Sir, You are right to cast doubts on the F-35 programme (Thunderer, July 17). After more than 11 years, and with at least three years more to run, the project still cannot deliver. It was supposed to finish in 2011 but now it looks like 2016. On top of the recent engine failure, there are software and hardware problems which resist huge efforts in manpower and money being thrown at them.

Perhaps the decision not to appear at Farnborough (report, July 16) was actually a blessing in disguise as one of the ongoing flight restrictions that affect the F-35 is that it is not allowed to fly within 25 miles of a thunderstorm. Given the weather forecast it would have been such a pity to come all this way just to sit on the ground (at RAF Fairford).

Group Captain David Hamilton

(RAF, ret’d)

Wrea Green, Lancs

Care for the elderly used to be provided by councils – now it is a matter of profits for shareholders

Sir, Discussions about care of the elderly often ignore the profit motive. Privatisation of care homes lies at the root of poor standards and high costs. Making money for shareholders and executives has led to the asset stripping of our old people; care workers on minimum wages have little incentive to do the job properly.

Care used to be provided free by county councils, which trained staff to high standards and paid decent wages. Giving the elderly the best possible care is surely an obligation on society. Politicians and bureaucrats shirked that responsibility and sold council care homes, calling it the best value for taxpayers. It’s hardly value for old folk when they lose their homes and their life savings.

Let’s accept that the days of free care are over, but old people could still pay their way in council-run care homes. Without the profit motive, the costs would fall, standards would rise, and there would be no need for a new, taxpayer-funded watchdog with 700 inspectors on the payroll.

Philip Chadwick

Southsea, Hants

Learning music at school has enormous benefits, and the education authorities’ neglect of the arts is woeful

Sir, You often lament the lack of funding for the arts in schools. I was a music teacher for many years, and I am appalled how many schools now have to rely on recording and videos to teach music. Some teachers don’t know anything about the basics of music. Singing and dancing are a change from academic subjects and often help with concentration. Also music gives children confidence.

Our leading musicians should do their utmost to persuade the new secretary of state for education to change this attitude to the teaching of the arts.

Catherine Barber


Sir, Patrick Kidd’s excellent article (July 17) on sport, music and Neville Cardus reminded me of when, during the 1990 World Cup, I was teaching in a West London comprehensive school. I often discussed the tournament with students and one day tried to widen the discussion by asking them if they knew the title of the BBC’s introductory music.

“It’s called Pavarotti, sir,” came the instant reply. Alas, the personality of the performer was as dominant then as it is now.

Mark Davies

Kings Langley, Herts

Sir, I applaud the BBC Proms for broadening the appeal of classical music beyond its normal audience. Music may be integral to the portrayal of sport in popular culture, but the dominance of sport in this culture makes it hard to make classical music accessible for all.

Governments, aided by the media, regard participating in sport as vital for young people’s physical and character development. This is not true of music, despite its study helping people to develop skills such as teamwork, discipline and creativity. Sadly, music is often under threat in state schools due to centrally mandated curriculum changes which emphasise “vocational skills” and the widespread misconception that classical music is boring and elitist.

Only by making learning a musical instrument as ubiquitous as learning to kick a football around can we ensure that music has a sporting chance.

John Slinger


It is the 200th anniversary of the death of the man who called Australia by its name for the first time

Sir, Today it is 200 years since Matthew Flinders died, after circumnavigating our great southern continent and surveying vast swathes of its coastline.

While making his way back to England after his third voyage of exploration Flinders was detained in Mauritius for six years. In captivity he spent his time composing his monumental book A Voyage to Terra Australis, in which he was the first to use the name “Australia” for the land mass.

He died aged 40, one day after his book’s official publication, and without knowing if the name Australia would be officially accepted.

David D’Lima

Sturt, Australia

Attempts by fielders to distract the batsman’s concentration with insults are against the spirit of cricket

Sir, Sledging of batsmen by bowlers and fielders in any form of cricket is repugnant. That the England captain, Alistair Cook, has defended his fast bowler James Anderson — “I do not think that I will tell him to tone it down” (July 17) — says much about Cook’s captaincy credentials. Rather than squabbling with India, England should take a lead in stamping out this nasty practice.

John Edge

Sevenoaks, Kent

Sir, Simon Barnes’s article about games and fighting (July 18) brings to mind the intense rivalry on the field between Denis Compton and the Australian bowlers Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. Indeed Lindwall split Compton’s head open at Old Trafford in 1948 (he returned, after stitches, to score 145 not out). This intensity was matched by their friendship off the field. Compton and Miller were frequently seen together at the races. As a very feeble old man, Miller came from Australia to attend Compton’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey.

Michael Brotherton

Chippenham, Wilts


SIR – We are advised to turn off lights and electrical equipment in this weather in order to avoid generating excess heat.

What should I do with the Aga?

Susie Phillips
Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire

SIR – I read that I am to stay indoors owing to the heatwave. I have been indoors since last winter, when I was advised to shelter from the forecasted snow and ice.

Please can the all-clear be sounded after these indoor warnings so we know when it is safe to venture outdoors? Or are we to use our common sense? Perish the thought.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – Being obedient citizens, we have drawn our curtains, switched off our lights and hunkered down in order to ride out the perils of the heatwave.

Would the powers that be object, do you think, if we snuggled in our sleeping bags, sipping cocoa?

It’s 16C here in the Lake District.

Louise Broughton
Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria

SIR – Gatwick can deliver a new runway more quickly – and with huge economic benefits but less environmental impact – than the other plans put forward.

Crucially, an expanded Gatwick can be delivered without taxpayers’ money, as the airport has already secured through private investors the £9 billion required to build a second runway. So passengers would reap the benefits without being hit in the pocket.

Moreover, huge infrastructure projects create wider economic growth, and an expanded Gatwick would deliver these benefits where they are needed most: in the South East. West London is already well-established; expanding Heathrow would focus regeneration in the wrong place. It is south London that is crying out for growth, and Gatwick is the perfect catalyst to produce new jobs, homes and business opportunities from Croydon to Clapham, Brighton to Bermondsey.

Steve O’Connell (Con)
London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton

SIR – Heathrow Airport says it will consider introducing a charge on motorists dropping passengers off if it gets to build a third runway. London ranks as one of the worst European cities for air quality and not enough has been done to reduce toxic emissions. More than 4,000 deaths are caused each year in London by pollutants.

Heathrow bosses need to show they are serious about looking after the local area by unclogging the surrounding roads of traffic and using the money from the long-overdue toll to lay on extra public transport.

Darren Johnson (Green)
London Assembly Member (London-wide)

Sign of the times

SIR – Roger Knight suggeststhat members of the public should help trim overgrown road signs to assist motorists.

This action may not be wise. A gentleman in a nearby town was appalled at the overgrown state of a cycle path near his home. Without “authority”, he spent much time and money clearing the undergrowth, accumulated rubbish and dangerous broken railings, and installed seating for public use, vastly improving the area.

His reward was to be reported to the police for metal theft and possible criminal damage by the charity that had let the path fall into disrepair.

Colin Marshall
Kirkbride, Cumberland

EU secrecy

SIR – As a former MEP, I was astounded to discover that this week the European Parliament voted to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission in a secret ballot, and refused to tell voters how each MEP voted. It must be the only parliament in Europe – there are 28 national parliaments within the EU – where the elected members are unanswerable to those who vote for them.

This secrecy within the European Parliament is an insult to democracy. No wonder there is a poor turnout in European elections right across the EU. MEPs must be answerable to those who vote for them.

Lord Kilclooney (Crossbench)
London SW1

Pushing the envelope

SIR – James Addison’s cryptic addresses reminded me of my father’s brain-teaser:


A letter addressed, of course, to John Underwood, Andover, Hants.

Diggory Seacome
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

A breed apart

SIR – When does a dog cease to be pedigree? Our local paper, the Grimsby Telegraph, has just advertised a “dachjackapoo” puppy. In my day, that would have been a mongrel.

Chris Whitfield
Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

Cricket as a game

SIR – The fuss over an argument between two cricketers is ridiculous.

Cricket is a game, for heaven’s sake, and if the Indian visiting side can’t play without wailing to Mummy, they should pack up and go home.

Antony Johnson
Beaminster, Dorset

SIR – Anyone who says that county cricket is dead should have been at Castle Park, Colchester, this week for the match between Essex and Hampshire.

I was fortunate enough to attend every day for a contest that contained all you could wish from a cricket match – a brilliant century, batting collapses and recoveries, superb fielding and catching, outstanding spin bowling and swing bowling, and a nerve-shredding finish.

Either team could have won, and though Essex scraped home by two wickets, the one true winner was the game of cricket.

Peter Cloke
Holbrook, Suffolk

Unjammed fridge

SIR – I buy all my jam, marmalade and chutney, home-made, from my local community market. They taste real and don’t need to be placed in the fridge.

Considering the wonderful quality, I don’t mind paying a bit more, and it often goes to a charity anyway.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset


SIR – As a middle-school teacher, I was interested in your report on tougher questions planned for Sats tests for 11-year-olds. My husband informs me that I need my 12-times table to help me count eggs. Does it have any other uses?

Maggi Davis
Pershore, Worcestershire


SIR – Gavin Inglis wrote of birds pecking through twine for nesting material. I had a similar experience, so I wired an imitation crow to a cane as a deterrent. It didn’t work. The dunnocks and robins quickly worked out that it was a fake, and pecked at it till they had removed all the stuffing, presumably for nesting. Good luck to them.

Alex Smith
Orford, Suffolk

SIR – I urge peers to consider Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill with wisdom and insight. Having worked as a consultant in palliative medicine, I am convinced the arguments put forward to change the law are specious, ill-conceived and dangerous.

Changing the law is unsafe, because suffering is subjective and complex. Suffering is not measurable and can be mitigated by correct, individualised care.

Doctors’ prognoses are not watertight, and remarkable turnarounds do occur. (Stephen Hawking is a clear example.)

It is difficult to detect covert pressures, such as the unspoken inference from professionals or family that the patient is a burden or drain on resources.

Changing the law is also unnecessary. Specialist palliative care can address the all-round needs of patients and their families, enabling humane living.

Ninety-three per cent of the members of the Association of Palliative Medicine are opposed to any change in the law. The few who advocate change are hospital-based. The additional benefit of a hospice is to put 100 per cent of the focus on palliative care in a suitable environment.

The Oregon model of assisted dying is seriously flawed. Giving lethal medicines to patients with untreated and undiagnosed depression is but one problem. A proportion of patients prescribed assisted dying medication do not use it, and this indicates the grey areas that doctors are being expected to address.

Oregon has a palliative care service that is far less developed than ours here in Britain, which is the world leader in specialist palliative end-of-life care.

I urge peers to resist the pressure groups who give assurances that their proposed safeguards would protect the public in general, the patient in particular and the medical profession. They will not.

Dr Stephen Dyer
Wivelsfield Green, West Sussex

SIR – Peers attending today’s debate and intending to vote need to remind themselves of a straightforward imperative, namely: Thou shalt not kill.

Richard Symington
London SW17

SIR – The proposed safeguard in this Bill of the signatures of two doctors brings to mind my chilling experience of the safeguard as it applies to abortions.

Some years ago, on a routine visit to my long-established and respected family doctor, a few months before my marriage, I said jokingly that I hoped I was not yet pregnant and would not look fat in my wedding dress. He replied that he could easily secure a signature from a colleague to do something about this if I wished.

Hanna Chillen
London SW10

SIR – Boris Johnson talks of “those whose lives have been prolonged by modern medicine beyond their ability to endure”. So, it is not assisted dying that needs to be addressed but the sometimes unkind practice of assisted living by an over-zealous medical profession. The maxim is: because you can does not necessarily mean you should.

Julia Bishop
West Malling, Kent

SIR – When parliamentarians debate assisted dying or euthanasia, it should not be viewed through the eyes of the millionaire novelist but of the elderly person, alone in a hospital bed without friends, family or support.

Our society does not measure up well when it comes to the care of its weakest members. There is the appalling treatment of children at one end of the scale and the warehousing of elderly people for the benefit of an avaricious, privately run care sector at the other.

If anyone believes that this society is mature enough to handle euthanasia then they should think again.

Paul Donovan
London E11

Irish Times:

Sir, – While the senseless deaths of four young Palestinian children playing football on a beach in Gaza should give the government of Israel and the leaders of Hamas sufficient reason to reflect on the tragic consequences of their actions and agree to an immediate ceasefire with a halt to the wanton violence on both sides, Palestinian ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek could have provided answers to many of the questions raised in his letter (July 17th).

For example, in response to Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai’s observation (July 16th) that “the difference between Israel and Hamas boils down to this: we are using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system to protect the residents of Israel”, Mr Abdelrazek’s describes how “The people of Gaza (1.7 million) have no bomb shelters, no Iron Dome, and indeed no air raid alarms”. However, he neglects to mention how instead of these they have a large number of tunnels which have been used to smuggle arms and rockets into Gaza. If Hamas really wanted to protect the citizens of Gaza from Israel’s efforts to stem the barrage of rockets fired at them across the border, then surely a far better use of their international financial aid would have been to build underground bomb shelters rather than tunnels?

Without the tunnels, the supply route for bringing rockets into Gaza would have been cut off and Hamas would have been unable to attack Israel in the first place. Consequently Israel would have had no need to defend its citizens, the Palestinians would have had no call for shelters, and the international aid could have been used to help improve Gaza’s infrastructure as western donor countries intended.

Mahmoud Abbas has often repeated that his government will abide by all previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In 1995, when Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO, signed the Oslo II accord, one of the key commitments in relation to Gaza was that it should be free from rockets. Had this been adhered to, then today Hamas would not have had any rockets to fire at Israel. But, over the intervening years, this pledge was not honoured and the world’s leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the smuggling of weapons and allow Hamas to rearm. This makes one of the latest suggestions coming from Hamas – a 10-year truce – simply laughable.

If the IDF commanders believe Hamas can be defeated by military action, then they, too, are mistaken. As in Northern Ireland, the only viable solution to this problem will be through diplomacy. This will require strong leadership from both governments, along with support and encouragement from countries across the world. Finally, international media outlets – including The Irish Times – need to play a more active role in the quest for peace in the Middle East by reporting on the conflict in a far more objective and balanced manner than has been their custom and practice in the past. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The Irish Times should be ashamed of itself for publishing the letter by Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai. Your newspaper needs to recognise that what is happening in Gaza is not some sort of academic debate where opinions are offered in good faith, but a deeply moral challenge that requires all people of conscience to stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. – Yours, etc,


Leicester Court,

Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.

Sir, – Once again the international community has decided to stand idly by as Israel rains down death and destruction on the Palestinians. Even when the major western powers call for a ceasefire, they do so in terms that put most of the blame on the Palestinians. The greater the level of Israeli terror, the more the Palestinians are told to end their resistance.

Israel has continually shown itself to be opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state and it doesn’t believe in extending to Palestinians the same rights it claims for Israelis. Unless Israel is genuinely prepared to negotiate a just and lasting solution with whatever representatives the Palestinian people elect, the cycle of violence will continue. Let us hope that Israel soon produces leaders who genuinely seek peace. – Yours, etc,


Bakers Road,

Gurranabraher, Cork.

A chara, – We have a Government that sees fit to appoint two Ministers dealing with Irish-language affairs, neither of whom can speak or conduct their affairs in Irish when dealing with the Irish-speaking population who still live on this island.

One wonders does the same attitude prevail towards the French language when appointing an Irish ambassador to France?

What is clear now is that we have a Government that seems obsessed with imposing taxes, counting pennies and cutting services wherever possible. At the same time there seems to be an almost wilful blindness when it comes to placing value upon one of the most important, distinctive and intrinsically unique features about us as a people, the Irish language. – Is mise,


Sandyford View,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – The logic of all the ruaille buaille and political posturing about the appointment of Ministers for the Gaeltacht surely means that we should have a vet in charge of the Department of Agriculture, a doctor in charge of the Department of Health, a general in charge of the Department of Defence, a teacher in charge of the Department of Education, and so on.

Is what we need another general election on the lines of the vocational panels for the Seanad elections?

What a prospect! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – It strikes me as ironic that native speakers and Irish-language enthusiasts should criticise Joe McHugh’s appointment as Minister of State for the Gaeltacht.

After all, he is presumably a product of the Irish educational system which has failed so dismally to teach the language over the past 90-odd years. Who better to take responsibility for the promotion of the language than someone who has attended Irish schools for 12 years or more and, like myself, remains unable to hold even a basic conversation in the Irish language?

The alternative is to appoint someone from a minority group within the country – ie someone who has come from a Gaeilgeoir background, someone who was brought up in a Gaeltacht area or one of the tiny minority of people who, despite the awfulness of the educational system in relation to the teaching of Irish, has acquired fluency in the language.

I would venture to suggest that it is unlikely that someone from any of these groups has any awareness of the difficulty so many of us faced in coping with the Irish language as a school subject.

I have no great enthusiasm for the language but neither am I opposed to it being taught. I do insist, however, that a system which allows so much time to be spent on a subject without producing a positive result needs to be examined critically. It may be that Mr McHugh is the man for the job. – Yours, etc,


Grosvenor Place,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – The article “Uncompetitive wage rates will put us out of business, says Greyhound boss” (July 17th) has cemented my long-held view that the collection of domestic waste should have remained the sole preserve of local authorities and should never have become an enterprise opportunity for private entrepreneurs.

The job of collection of waste of any kind, whether it be business or domestic, is an essential service and those who do such work have an unenviable role for which they ought to be at least reasonably well paid. Greyhound, however, faces the usual requirements of “reduced costs” and “increased productivity” (it’s curious how the generally accepted goal of all private enterprise, ie the maximising of profits, is generally absent from such arguments) so workers find themselves competitors in the so-called “race to the bottom”.

Greyhound’s executive director, Michael Buckley, states, “I know the pay cuts we are looking for are big, but if [the workers] win, and get what they want, then we are out of business.”

But, surely, that’s part and parcel of capitalism? So be it. If a business can’t pay its workers a living wage that allows them a pride in doing their job, coupled with a salary which allows them some semblance of dignity, then it has no right to remain in business in any kind of civilised society. However, with pusillanimous unions, laissez faire governments and a society that is rapidly seguing into an economy, that notion is receding. – Yours, etc,


Stillorgan Road,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Having read Ned O’Sullivan’s remarks in the Seanad drawing attention to the scandalous behaviour of the seagull population of Dublin (“FF Senator says ‘seagulls have lost the run of themselves’”, July 17th), I now realise how misguided it was of me to have voted for the abolition of that august body.  – Yours, etc,


Rochestown Avenue,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – To quote Senator Ned O’Sullivan, “seagulls are very intelligent”. Isn’t it time we had a few of them in the Seanad? – Yours, etc,


Stone Court,

Lover’s Walk,


Sir, – Senator Catherine Noone recently complained about the chimes on ice cream vans tempting children to partake of ice cream cones.

More recently Senator Ned O’Sullivan has complained about seagulls going about their business in noisy fashion, and robbing children of their ice cream cones and lollipops.

An Irish solution to an Irish problem, perhaps? – Yours, etc,


Maxwell Road,

Rathgar, Dublin 6.

A chara, – As a resident of Dublin 1, I am well aware of the problems seagulls cause: screeching from 3am until midnight; ripping open plastic bags to get food; leaving droppings on cars; picking at dead pigeons; even perching on window sills looking for food inside apartments. While some in the media have ridiculed Senator Ned O’Sullivan’s efforts to raise this problem, I invite them to spend a week in this part of the city, wade through the rubbish that covers our streets, listen to the seagulls all night, or even hose down their doorway of waste. – Is mise,


North Great George’s Street,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – I see that Killiney beach has been closed to swimmers due to bacterial contamination (“Bacteria levels at Killiney beach ‘significantly higher’ than normal”, July 17th). While the exact cause of this problem is not clear at present, it does raise the question as to why dogs are still allowed on our bathing beaches. Your report notes that “Dogs splashing around can cause contamination, with the average dog faeces containing enough bacteria to contaminate four Olympic-sized swimming pools”.

On urban beaches in Australia, Europe and the US, dogs are banned, and the ban is rigorously enforced by the lifeguards.

Killiney Hill has been allowed to degenerate into an outdoor dog toilet and I worry that a similar fate awaits the beach, as the recent complete ban on dogs at Sandycove and Seapoint beaches was not extended to Killiney.

Clearly, a decision has been made by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council to let Killiney “go to the dogs”. – Yours, etc,



Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I would be in favour of free GP care if the country were awash with GPs and with adequate infrastructure. It is not. General practice is the bucket of the health service and as the Government measures increase the flow, the surplus will flood towards the hospitals. Waiting times for both will increase and the only people that will benefit are those in the private sector. The two-tier system will worsen. Clearly our politicians, as with the medical card fiasco, will have to see it to believe it. – Yours, etc,


Loughboy Medical Centre,


Sir, – Leave one standing and knock the other one. That should please everybody. – Yours, etc,


Castleknock Crescent,

Laurel Lodge, Dublin 15.

Sir, – I salute Michael Noonan’s vision for Dublin’s Docklands to be our version of Canary Wharf (“Nama plans €3 billion spend on Dublin docklands and housing”, Business Today, July 17th).

In light of recent reports, Pigeon Wharf may well be an apposite moniker. – Yours, etc,


Cormac Terrace,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Your Editorial “Cameron’s purge” (July 17th) regrets the lack of a typeface making clear when the rhetorical device of irony is being employed.

The notorious British politician and journalist Tom Driberg proposed a new typeface, based on italics with the slope reversed, to be called “ironics”, for just this purpose.

As Driberg remarked: “There is no joke so obvious that some bloody fool won’t miss the point.” – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal.

Sir, – Alan Conlon (July 18th) takes Gerry Christie (July 15th) to task for suggesting that Noddy and Big Ears once shared a bed. He boldly asserts that Noddy and Big Ears “never” slept together. Well, I’d like to quote a piece from Enid Blyton’s Hurrah for Little Noddy: “Then they [Noddy and Big Ears] squashed into Big Ears’s tiny, soft bed, put their arms round one another to stop themselves from rolling out,and fell fast asleep”. I hope that puts the issue to bed. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The apparent confusion over Noddy’s domestic arrangements may arise from people referring to different versions of Enid Blyton’s classic tales, which were rewritten to delete episodes, such as PC Plod bashing Noddy over the head with a truncheon, that might sound jarring to contemporary Big Ears. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Michael Parsons very kindly mentions my work on the Irish Tourist Association Topographical and General Survey for Enniskerry, Co Wicklow (“A river runs through it”, Property, July 17th).

These under-used reports provide lots of detail about localities all over Ireland in the 1940s and are available in county libraries. Sadly those for Wicklow localities are no longer accessible as Wicklow County Council has closed off access to their local studies section indefinitely since July 1st, because of the moratorium on employment in the public sector. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Kevin Street, Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

* I agree with the tone and tenor of John Mulligan’s report, ‘O’Leary tells Noonan to stick to cuts’ (Business Week, July 17, 2014).

However, linking the €2bn of cuts to the timescale of the next election is indicating that decisions in this matter are made in the interests of re-election and not in the best long-term interest of the citizens of this country.

Michael O’Leary says he is a democrat and we elect the politicians “and we get worse and worse at it”. On the public sector, O’Leary is on the button, as usual, in the need for strong management, since the administrative staffing levels could easily be halved. At present, unions and management are spending their time protecting their fiefdoms.

On the ‘banking inquiry’, we need to know why 164 TDs didn’t revolt over the guarantee to the banks in the interest of the citizens, or were they beholden to the banks?

I applaud Michael O’Leary for his honest and outspoken views and would expect nothing else from a man who faced down Taoisigh, governments and their friends in the unions when they tried to kill off Ryanair.



Economy demands attention

* As an Irishman (of the emigration generation) living overseas, I have watched events in Ireland with detached but personal interest over the last 30 years.

From the highs of the Celtic Tiger to the current lows, I have admired both the exuberance with which we embraced the boom years and the fortitude with which we face the downturn. But throughout all of this I have been perplexed that nobody has been held to account for the events which created the current crisis – politicians, leaders of industry, bureaucrats have all washed their hands and divested accountability.

It would seem a topic that should interest and energise all until the burden is equally shared and accountability sheeted home. But it seems a Garth Brooks concert is a more consuming issue. An issue which can be fixed by buying a DVD, unlike the economic crisis.



Conflict areas need flight paths

* The downing of Malaysian Airline MH17, with the resulting deaths of all passengers and its crew, must call in to question the sense of having flight paths over conflict areas.

On a recent trip to South-East Asia I noticed the on-board flight map showed that the route took us directly over Iraq. I was aware that a sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims was been carried out many thousands of feet below us and that it was likely they did not have weapons sophisticated enough to down a plane.

However, the horrific tragedy in Ukraine shows there is an urgent need to risk-assess each and every flight path that crosses a conflict zone. Flight times and travel costs should never come into the equation when human life is at stake.



Obama’s promise has fallen flat

* In 2008, President Obama declared “We can do better.”

Today I see a Russian Bear so far out of its cage that it’s now downing passenger airlines; the Israeli Defence Forces entering Gaza after a nine-year hiatus; Assad of Syria using chemical weapons at will; and al-Qa’ida trying to give birth to a new nation in central Iraq.

If this is better, I wonder is there any way we can go back to what was allegedly worse?



Celebrating Seamus Heaney

* I am delighted to see that alongside the usual political debates, this year’s MacGill Summer School in Glenties, which opens this Sunday, July 20 and runs till Friday, July 25, is celebrating the poet Seamus Heaney.

I remember, after his untimely death, reading the actress Bronagh Gallagher’s beautiful tribute in your paper, about her perfect late-night meeting with her childhood hero Seamus Heaney and his wife, Marie, which left her floating and charmed and which brought tears to my eyes. I only wished I had met this wonderful human being who charmed so many.

As the perfect meeting came to the perfect end, her hero said: “I must take my lovely wife home, Bronagh.”

This said it all.



Ringsend chimneys must go!

* I would agree with Brian Brennan’s letter concerning the chimneys in Ringsend. They have served their need and are now redundant, so get rid. The Shelly Banks and the South Bull Wall area is very nice for a stroll, of which I had the pleasure recently.

I was surprised to see a building on the wall known as the ‘Half Moon Swimming & Water Polo Club’. On the day in question there was plenty of activity from lunchtime strollers, swimmers and windsurfers.



Life sentences really are for life

* The article on life sentences by barrister James McDermott in today’s newspaper (‘We need a proper debate on life sentences’) gives the impression that when a life sentence prisoner is released on temporary release/’parole,’ they ‘. . . remain free indefinitely’ unless they commit a further offence or fail to fulfil any release conditions. The piece ignores the fact that life-sentenced prisoners are (a) prepared for their release on ‘parole’ and (b) supervised for the rest of their lives by a probation officer.

In that sense, while it is true that most people who receive a life sentence will be released from the custodial part of their sentence at some stage, the sanction does remain in effect after release, as evidenced by their ongoing supervision.

Last year (2013) the Probation Service supervised 76 life-sentence prisoners in the community. Probation officers supervising these men and women perform a dual role: helping the ex-prisoner to reintegrate in their community and avoid further reoffending, and supervising them to ensure they adhere to the conditions attached to their early release.

In this way, we help to contribute to improved community safety, while ensuring that release conditions are adhered to and that life-sentenced prisoners have an opportunity to prove themselves, under supervision, after they have served an appropriate length of time in custody.




‘Romance’ may be stretching it

* The TV page on Wednesday 16 described the movie ‘Warlock’ as ‘romance’. A saloon being set on fire, cowboys shooting each other left right and centre, indeed I don’t know if the ‘chap’ even gets to kiss the girl. Ah yes, you can’t beat a bit of romance!



Irish Independent


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